I know we are woodworking site but something that many of you might not be aware of is the incredible benefits of CNC in the art of plastic or metal injection molding process. This similar kind of thing is done in the carving world where some places may use a cnc carver to reproduce a hand carved item and then finish in some cases by hand in others taking the carving all the way through to finish.
Anyhow I was fortunate many years ago to be involved in having an entire payphone outer housing manufactured using die casting process. We did the whole thing using CAD and wanted to take the project direct from CAD through to manufacturing the molds etc to evaluate the benefits of this technology on the design process and productivity back in early 90`s.
This software (mold flow analysis ) makes it possible to evaluate a design and its future tooling prior to even cutting metal to make the tool. Its incredible what it manages to do to the process. By the way for interest sake we took our design from SA through to an small company in Italy and had the molds made there using a cad cam process. The detail and quality of castings we were able to achieve and i am going back many years was amazing.
Check out this video to give you an idea of the benefits of this technology.
There is a bitter sweet aspect to this kind of technology. On the one hand it has improved mold making efficiency and on the other taken the hand craft skill out of it. One shop or vendor that i used to work with for our tooling in plastic prior to this time used to take on at least 10 to 12 apprentices each year and truly train them to be real toolmakers. By real i mean these guys ended up as craftsman even more like artists when you saw them hand file finishing touches and polish tools. That is if they lasted the full apprenticeship with them. They were very strict but their quality of tooling was amazing.
Now its all done by machines and that skill is going by the way. Its kinda like the guys designing printed circuit boards using CAD but not knowing a thing about the layout from an analog signals point of view. Maybe i am just getting old. I believe in the hi tech approach but i believe there should be proper training prior to using it. Not just an operator level where if in event you dont succeed just keep bashing away and by default you may get there.
Still to contradict myself i would not like to think about cutting a bunch of box joints by hand as opposed to using a Ibox jig. And thats not even CNC.